Us Demographic Trends and Its Environmental Impact

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The United States, the third most populous country globally, accounts for about 4.5% of the world’s population. The U.S. population, currently estimated at 308.7 million persons, has more than doubled since its 1950 level of 152.3 million. More than just being double in size, the population has become qualitatively different from what it was in 1950. As noted by the Population Reference Bureau, “The U.S. is getting bigger, older, and more diverse.” The objective of this report is to highlight some of the demographic changes that have already occurred since 1950 and to illustrate how these and future trends will reshape the nation in the decades to come through 2050. The Census Bureau projects that the U.S. population will continue to grow, to almost 440 million persons by year 2050, albeit at a slower pace than the growth recorded over the past half-century. More pessimistic growth projections are offered by the United Nations and the Social Security Administration, which estimate that the U.S. population will be 404 million or 411 million respectively in the same year. The Census Bureau assumes that the growth rate will remain positive through year 2050, but will fluctuate over the time period. The current level of 0.8% per year will increase through 2030 to closer to 0.9% per year. After 2030 the growth rate is expected to return to 0.8%. The Census Bureau uses demographic projection techniques to predict future trends in American fertility. They project that the total fertility rate will remain at or above replacement level, 2.1 births per woman age 15-44, through 2050. This is in contrast to much of Europe and to Canada, where fertility rates are below replacement level and not expected to increase. The Census Bureau suggest that these falling fertility rates are a result of societal changes, such as the increasing costs of raising a child, rising levels of women’s labor force participation, and delayed childbearing. While the U.S. has experienced these same societal changes, U.S. fertility remains higher because of societal adaptations such as increased access to child care and increased male involvement in household labor and childrearing The U.S. Census Bureau projects that net migration will continue to be an important component of population growth in the United States through 2050 with net immigration continuing at higher rates than currently observed. Both gross immigration and gross emigration are important to consider when examining how immigration effects population growth and change. In general, the balance of gross immigration has exceeded gross emigration over the past century. Using indirect demographic techniques, the Census Bureau estimated that the number of emigrants leaving the United States has been increasing over the past decades, reaching about 234,000 persons annually during the 1990s and increasing steadily through the first decade of the 21st Century. The Population Reference Bureau estimates almost 330,000 emigrants in 2009. One of the most important demographic characteristics of a population is its age and sex structure. In general, a young population structure is seen in countries experiencing high fertility and rapid population growth, and the relevant policy considerations are whether there are sufficient schools and, later, enough jobs and housing to accommodate them. On the other hand, critical policy challenges in countries with old population structures are to develop retirement and health systems to serve the older population, often with simultaneous reductions in the number of working-age persons to support them. The population of the United States had been relatively young in the first half of the 20th century, a consequence of relatively high fertility, declining infant and childhood mortality, and high rates of net immigration to the United States by young workers and families. Since 1950, the United States has been in the midst of a profound demographic change: rapid...
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